Tips on Picking up Stitches Along a Curve

Library Vest from Outlander Knitting

Recently, I finished the Library Vest, a pattern inspired by the Outlander books and television series.  I have to say that it was fun to knit. The cable pattern was simple and easy to read and remember. One of the final steps is adding a 1 x 1 ribbing to the armholes and neck. This required picking up stitches along a curve. Picking up the correct number of stitches and spacing them evenly can be a challenge. Below are some tips that just might help you achieve the look that you want.

Picking up stitches along a curve:

  • In most cases begin with the right side of the fabric facing you. There are exceptions, but those are clearly written in the pattern.
  • Circular needles are easier to use, especially on curved edges.
  • You can pick up stitches in one loop of a stitch or under two loops or the whole stitch. Bulky yarns and large needles can leave a noticeable hole, so experiment to see what looks best.
  • You will usually be directed to start under the arm or on a side edge of a curved neckline. When you are at a place where the stitches are horizontal (for example, under the arm, the ratio is 1 to 1. Here, you usually pick up one stitch for each knitted stitch.
  • When picking up in stockinette stitch, use a 3 to 4 ratio. Pick up three stitches for every four rows.
  • If you are picking up stitches along a garter stitch edge, use a 1 to 2 ratio and pick up one stitch for every two rows.
  • I like to use a crochet hook to pick up the first couple of stitches because it is easier to pick up the first loop and then slip it onto my needle.
  • Use markers to help you divide and conquer. For example, I was directed to pick up 118 stitches around the sleeve opening. First, I marked my sleeve at the bottom (beginning) and the shoulder seam. I also placed markers along the sides at equal distances from the top and bottom (see picture on the left). Then I divided the total number of stitches by four and picked up about 30 stitches between markers.
  • Don't freak out! Designers have determined the optional number of stitches to pick up. However, your yarn type, weight, and tension may be different than what is specified in the pattern. If you are off by a few stitches, don't freak out. I prefer to pick up stitches evenly staying as close to the final number as possible instead of an exact number. Keep in mind that picking up too many stitches will cause the edge to ruffle and picking up too few stitches will pull the edge together creating puckers.
  • Keep in mind that if your edging is a 1 x 1 ribbing (k1, p1) you will need to end up with an even number of stitches. Picking up 118 stitches would work. If you want a 2 x2 rib (k2, p2) you will need to end up with a multiple of 4. I needed to pick up 120 or 116 stitches for my sleeve edging.

This short tutorial may help you. Sweater Finishing: Pick up Stitches Around the Neck, by Knitting with Cheryle Brunette.